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The challenges faced by the young people of this generation are “unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate,” according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in an advisory issued December 7. In addition, the challenges have been “devasting” to their mental health.
Many families and community leaders have expressed concerns about this crisis. The advisory, “Protecting Youth Mental Health,” details the multitude of things from increased violence in schools to an alarming report of “Chicago police arresting an 11-year-old for suspicion of felony carjacking” that could assist in explaining the situation.
A joint hearing, including the Senate Behavioral and Mental Health Committee and the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee, was held by Illinois lawmakers one day after the advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General.
The conclusion made by State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) is that kids should have “appropriate mental and behavioral health treatment.” She believes they should not have to go too far from home or unnecessarily reside in a hospital. Moreover, there must be an increased effort in the mental health workforce to place the children accordingly and provide the appropriate care at the right time.
Factors Affecting Youth Mental Health
Specific factors that have “strained” the youth of mental health include but are not limited to technology, political division, social media, and wealth inequity. People of color in lower-income communities seem to be affected more severely.
Ada S. McKinley Community Services provided mental health services to approximately 3,000 youth each year in Chicago’s south and southwest suburbs before the pandemic. Unfortunately, students went through heightened stress and isolation during remote learning, and counselors lost access to students.
Curt Holderfield, Sr. Vice President of Child Development and Youth Services at Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc, stated that now schools are reopened, there is an increased need for social services.
Furthermore, agencies like Ada S. McKinley are scrambling to locate places to offer services because many families are not willing or able to provide services in their homes. However, a limited number of people can come into the schools. Moreover, the total amount of social services offered in school before the pandemic may not be available.
State lawmakers addressed funding, who urged the state to alter its law and allow federal Medicaid dollars to be utilized for mental health treatment services for the youth.
Moreover, the effects of children not receiving the appropriate treatment can result in the possibility of them cycling through hospitalization and crisis treatments, lost time in school, behavioral escalations, or involvement with the legal system, explained David Gomel, President and CEO of Rosecrance Health Network. Therefore, he concludes that all the results are not optimal for the kids and the families and are “clinically inappropriate and expensive for the state.”
Holderfield acknowledged a correlation between individuals from low-income neighborhoods with high poverty rates, unemployment, crime, and homelessness. These same communities were hit badly by COVID and are experiencing tremendous spikes of mental health needs.
He concludes that the most suitable treatment is prevention. In addition, Holderfield wants more people to know what types of mental health services are available.
Written by Ke’Lena Thomas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Chicago Tribune: The Southland faces a youth mental health crisis that may worsen; by Ted Slowik
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Nhan Nguyen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Jernej Furman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License